Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category

Manhattan Breakfast: Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif Meet

Photo from flickr,

October 2, 2013: Few were surprised when Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif made little headway in reversing the recent deterioration of India-Pakistan relations when they met in New York on September 29.  Nawaz’s election in May on a platform that included improving ties with India, especially in the economic sphere, generated rosy hopes. These were dimmed by an outbreak of serious violence in Kashmir and by the preoccupation of both governments with other pressing problems.  The weakening of Manmohan Singh’s Congress government by an economic slump and a series of high-level political scandals has also taken its toll.

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Nawaz Sharif’s New Government: Beyond Pakistan

On the economy, as we have seen, Nawaz Sharif is a man in a hurry. The 15-day deadline he gave his cabinet colleagues to develop action plans for their ministries underscores the priority he places on early, visible improvement in Pakistan’s economy and administration – and on creating a contrast with Asif Zardari’s record. In foreign affairs, he will seek to maintain Pakistan’s position in Afghanistan, manage and if possible repair ties with Washington, and contribute to his economic goals, including if possible moving forward with trade opening with India. The accent will be on continuity, albeit with a more strident tone in his objection to U.S. drone attacks, and on avoiding confrontation with the Pakistan army. For the United States, the challenge will be not to treat Pakistan as an extension of its Afghan problem.

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Nawaz Sharif’s New Government: First, Focus on Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif’s swearing-in as prime minister on June 5 represents yet another “second chance” both for Pakistan and for him. Unlike many of the analyses coming from the world outside Pakistan, we believe that the most important question is how he follows through on the promises of prosperity and governance that he made in his first speech to parliament. Accordingly, we will examine his domestic prospects here. His domestic track record will affect his freedom of action on foreign policy; we will explore this in a second essay. One theme that runs through both is that the United States needs to focus more of its attention on Pakistan as Pakistan, rather than viewing the country as a sideshow of the Afghan drama.

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Pakistan Election Primer

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April 24, 2013: Pakistanis are scheduled to go to the polls on May 11 to choose members of the country’s National Assembly and its four provincial Legislative Assemblies. We offer a handy primer on the election – and why and how it matters. The bottom line: despite pre-election violence from Islamic extremists, chances are this election will eventually produce a viable government. If mass public protests occur after the election, that would be the clearest indication of a more troublesome prognosis.

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India and Pakistan: Low Expectations

Ajmer Shrine, photo from

March 11, 2013: Pakistan lame-duck Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s brief private visit to India March 9 accomplished nothing of substance, but it put an unintended spotlight on the troubled state into which India-Pakistan relations have fallen in the past few months. The causes of the downturn are many and varied – trouble in Kashmir and along the Line of Control, concerns about post-2014 Afghanistan, a stalling of their encouraging trade opening, and perhaps most importantly impending elections in both countries. A State Department spokeswoman welcomed Ashraf’s visit and confirmed Washington’s interest in the two nations talking to one another. But such long-standing U.S. cheerleading from the sidelines is unlikely to have any meaningful impact. Significant progress seems unlikely until parliamentary elections are held in both countries, Pakistan’s this May, India’s probably in early 2014. Read more

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U.S.-Pakistan: Breaking Up?

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March 8, 2013: Breaking up may not be “hard to do,” as Husain Haqqani has written in the March-April 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs – but his article doesn’t answer the key question about U.S.-Pakistan relations: what will the two countries expect of each other if they step back from their hopes for a close alliance?

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American China Hand in World War II India

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John Paton Davies’s China Hand: An Autobiography, the posthumously-published 2012 winner of the American Academy of Diplomacy’s annual Douglas Dillon Award for distinguished writing on the conduct of U.S. diplomacy, is one of the best diplomatic memoirs we’ve read in years.

Davies, who died in 1999 at the age of ninety-one, is best known as one of the most prominent of the State Department China-specialists who were hounded out of the Foreign Service during the McCarthy era because of their alleged sympathy for the Communists in the Chinese civil war. But his memoir includes more than recollections of his experiences in China.  A fascinating surprise, for readers interested in South Asia, lay in its accounts of his meetings in India in 1942-43 with top leaders of the independence movement at a crucial period in their struggle against the British Raj. His spirited, well-written reports of his talks with these prominent figures, his incisive observations of their personalities, and his analyses of other salient features of the contemporary Indian political scene add an important dimension to his book. They provide fresh insights into the way Indian leaders viewed their struggle as well as their – and Davies’s –  assessments  of  what the United States was doing and should do in the Indian subcontinent in those years. Read more

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Pakistan: Escaping a Failing Orbit

In Why Nations Fail (New York: Crown Business, 2012), Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue that sustained growth depends primarily on “inclusive institutions” that bring pluralism into government. It is these political and economic structures, more than resource endowments, knowledge, financing, foreign aid, or a variety of other factors, that the authors believe account for a country’s prosperity or poverty. This paper looks at Pakistan through their lens. There is good evidence that Pakistan lacks the kind of institutions the authors associate with lasting prosperity. However, Pakistan’s troubles are compounded by some factors that the authors do not take into account, such as stubborn insecurity and ethnic fragmentation. Encouraging entrepreneurship and expanding the middle class may be the most effective long term remedy.

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Book Reviews: Lashkar-e-Taiba; Indian Military History

Photo by Todd Huffman,

Two very different, but quite compelling, books on the military problems of the region: Stephen Tankel’s Storming the World Stage traces the history of Lashkar-e-Taiba and its complex relationship with the Pakistan army, concluding that this is unlikely to change; and Srinath Raghavan’s War and Peace in Modern India recounts in elegant detail the diplomatic and military history of the conflicts that peppered the first fifteen years of India’s independence.

Read both – but to get more of the flavor of them, read the review by Teresita Schaffer.

This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©. The International Institute for Strategic Studies; Survival: Global Politics and Strategy is available online at: .


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Book reviews: Boo, Inskeep and Berenschot on South Asian Cities

Mumbai, from Flickr,

Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is an unforgettable walk through the Annawadi neighborhood, next to Mumbai’s airport. Ward Berenschot’s Riot Politics links the ever-present search for patronage in India’s cities to the grisly communal violence that breaks out there from time to time . Steve Inskeep’s Instant City weaves together the ethnic stew, political infighting and scarcity that make up Karachi.

To whet your appetite for all three, see Teresita Schaffer’s review. This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy ©. The International Institute for Strategic Studies; Survival: Global Politics and Strategy is available online at: .


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